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– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011
Iraq

What About the UN Weapons Inspectors?

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Statement by Arms Control Association Executive Director Daryl G. Kimball on the June 2008 Senate Select Committee on Intelligence “Phase II” Report on Prewar Iraq Intelligence

For Immediate Release: June 5, 2008
Press Contacts: Peter Crail, (202) 463-8270 x102 and Daryl G. Kimball, (202) 463-8270 x107

(Washington, D.C.): The long-delayed Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released today underscores once again that the president and his war cabinet selectively used portions of the flawed October 2002 National Intelligence Assessment (NIE) to justify the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The new report documents, beyond a doubt, that Bush and his team cherry-picked the flawed intelligence estimate, which was filled with caveats and qualifications about Iraq’s alleged nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile programs.

Yet the committee report makes an inexcusable and obvious error of omission that most of the mainstream media and commentariat continue to overlook: the Bush administration and Congress ignored the widely-available findings of the UN weapons inspectors weeks before the U.S. invasion.

On Feb. 13, 2003, the chief UN inspector, Hans Blix, reported to the UN Security Council that there was no evidence of either active chemical or biological weapons programs or stockpiles. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei reported that there was no evidence of a reconstituted nuclear weapons program. On the basis of leads provided by U.S. and other intelligence agencies and information gained from earlier inspections, the UN inspectors conducted more than 760 inspections covering about 500 sites from November 2002 through February 2003.

The UN inspectors’ findings directly contradicted key assessments of the October 2002 NIE and provided ample reason to reassess that document, which was based entirely on information gathered before the return of the UN inspectors in November of 2002.

The UN inspectors again reported March 7 to the Security Council, once more rebutting the key findings in the NIE that the Bush administration had used to claim Iraq was actively pursuing prohibited weapons. For example, a full month before the U.S. invasion, the inspectors found strong evidence that Iraq was procuring aluminum tubes for artillery rockets rather than for nuclear weapons material production. The IAEA also exposed as “not authentic” the documents which laid the basis for the claim that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger.

The UN inspectors’ case against the Bush administration’s weapons allegations should have led Bush and members of Congress to delay the invasion, allow the inspectors to resolve remaining questions and contain any new Iraqi weapons work, and order a new intelligence assessment. Their failure to do so has cost innumerable lives, billions of dollars, lost American prestige, and insecurity.

The failure to consider the UN inspectors’ pre-invasion findings also has allowed the Bush administration to foist another falsehood on the public and on the lazy press corps: That the administration’s belief that there were prohibited weapons activities in Iraq was based on the intelligence available at the time and that everyone agreed with that assessment.

Wrong. The NIE was flawed and the UN inspectors told us so before the United States and its coalition partners invaded Iraq. Unfortunately, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has failed to fully correct the record.

For more information on Iraq, go to the Arms Control Association's Iraq Resource Page.

Description: 

The long-delayed Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report released today underscores once again that the president and his war cabinet selectively used portions of the flawed October 2002 National Intelligence Assessment (NIE) to justify the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The new report documents, beyond a doubt, that Bush and his team cherry-picked the flawed intelligence estimate, which was filled with caveats and qualifications about Iraq’s alleged nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile programs. (Continue)

Country Resources:

Bush Says Iraq Oil May Fuel Al Qaeda WMD

Peter Crail

During a March 19 speech marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush warned of consequences for the early removal of U.S. forces from that country. These, he said, could include the possibility that a withdrawal would indirectly help al Qaeda acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney seemed to indicate that Iran was pursuing the development of weapons-grade uranium, a claim contrary to international inspection findings.

In his March 19 remarks, Bush stated that “an emboldened al Qaeda with access to Iraq’s oil resources could pursue its ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction to attack America and other free nations.”

It is not evident, however, that access to substantial additional funds would be an important factor in al Qaeda’s ability to develop weapons of mass destruction.

In regard to nuclear weapons, a 2006 unclassified intelligence report to Congress on WMD proliferation concluded that al Qaeda’s “key obstacle” in developing a nuclear device is acquiring sufficient fissile material. Al Qaeda has pursued a nuclear weapons capability since the early 1990s, but attempts to purchase the necessary material are believed to have been unsuccessful. Known attempts include cases in which the purchase was prevented by law enforcement authorities or in which the group bought material falsely sold as nuclear material.

Prior to the October 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, al Qaeda had more success in developing a limited biological and chemical weapons capability. According to the 2005 “Report of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction,” al Qaeda recruited individuals during the 1990s with sufficient technical expertise for rudimentary biological and chemical weapons programs. (See ACT, October 2006. )

The report described al Qaeda’s biological weapons work as “extensive” and “well-organized” and indicated that it was operated by “individuals with special training.” Similarly, the commission indicated that some al Qaeda members had know-how to produce and deploy “common chemical agents.” However, U.S. intelligence agencies were “doubtful” that the organization was capable of carrying out mass casualty attacks with advanced chemical agents.

The 2004 report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, informally known as the 9/11 Commission, stated that al Qaeda’s overall operations prior to the September 2001 attacks cost about $30 million each year, based almost entirely on donations. It is unclear how much of this funding was dedicated to the organization’s WMD pursuits.

Al Qaeda’s biological and chemical weapons programs were largely dismantled following U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan. A 2005 unclassified intelligence report to Congress on WMD proliferation indicated that there were no reliable reports of an active al Qaeda biological weapons program but judged that acquiring such weapons remained an important goal. The report stated that al Qaeda continued “possible chemical-related training” in Pakistan, but the commission had no evidence of a concerted program similar to al Qaeda’s pre-2001 pursuits.

Cheney Suggests That Iran Is Developing HEU

In addition to commenting on the WMD threat from al Qaeda, administration officials continue to highlight the threat from Iran’s nuclear program. During a March 24 ABC News interview, Cheney stated that Iran is “heavily involved in trying to develop nuclear weapons enrichment, the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade levels.”

However, a Feb. 22 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency indicated that Iran has enriched uranium to 3.8 percent uranium-235 (from natural concentrations of less than 1 percent), a typical level for nuclear power reactors. Weapons-grade enrichment requires a concentration of 90 percent or more of this fissile isotope.

Enrichment facilities can be used to produce any level of enrichment. However, a December 2007 National Intelligence Estimate assessed with moderate confidence that, between 2010 and 2015, Iran will be technically capable of producing enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) for a weapon. The U.S. intelligence community also judged with moderate confidence that Iran would not use its declared facilities to carry out such enrichment.

During a March 19 speech marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush warned of consequences for the early removal of U.S. forces from that country. These, he said, could include the possibility that a withdrawal would indirectly help al Qaeda acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Meanwhile, Vice President Dick Cheney seemed to indicate that Iran was pursuing the development of weapons-grade uranium, a claim contrary to international inspection findings. (Continue)

Senate Still Examining Pre-War Iraq Intel

Peter Crail

Five years after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led coalition forces, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has yet to conclude its investigations into the pre-war intelligence that was cited by the Bush administration as the basis for the decision to take military action against Iraq.

The committee has conducted the investigation in two phases. The first phase, concluded in 2004, centered on a faulty October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) regarding Iraq’s nonconventional weapons programs. (See ACT, September 2004. )

The second phase of the examination has faced repeated delays since it was announced in February 2004. Nonetheless, this phase has examined a variety of issues, including the intelligence community’s use of information provided by the Iraqi National Congress. (See ACT, December 2006. ) Two issues remain outstanding, and congressional sources told Arms Control Today Jan. 30 that the committee hopes to vote on reports regarding them before the summer recess. It is unclear if this can be accomplished.

One of the remaining issues relates to whether pre-war public statements on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and links to terrorism by administration officials were substantiated by intelligence information. As part of this investigation, the committee has asked the administration to share all Presidential Daily Briefs on Iraq during the investigation’s time frame. The administration has refused to honor this request.

The second remaining issue involves the intelligence-related activities conducted by two Pentagon offices: the Office of Special Plans and the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld established the Office of Special Plans, which was tasked with examining raw intelligence related to Iraq’s WMD programs, within the office of Douglas Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy. Feith created the Counter Terrorism Evaluation Group after the September 2001 attacks to examine links between terrorist organizations and host countries.

In February 2007, the Pentagon inspector general issued a report stating that Feith’s office produced “alternative intelligence assessments on the Iraq and al Qaeda relationship, which included some conclusions that were inconsistent with the consensus of the Intelligence Community.” The report further stated that, although these activities were not illegal or unauthorized, they were “inappropriate.” Congressional sources told Arms Control Today Feb. 15 that former committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) used the Pentagon investigation as an excuse to delay the committee’s investigation into Feith’s offices.

Five years after the March 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led coalition forces, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has yet to conclude its investigations into the pre-war intelligence that was cited by the Bush administration as the basis for the decision to take military action against Iraq. (Continue)

LOOKING BACK: The Additional Protocol

Trevor Findlay

The theory of punctuated equilibrium posits that life on Earth has evolved not in constant, linear fashion but through long periods of stasis, interrupted by catastrophic events, such as meteor impacts, which suddenly push it in new, adaptive directions. Without stretching the metaphor too far, the evolution of nuclear safeguards can be viewed in this way. It has been characterized by long periods of continuity, interrupted by extraordinary events that have changed its nature and direction.

Notable among these events, welcome and disturbing alike, have been the advent of the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the 1974 Indian nuclear test, and the 1991 discovery of Iraq’s violation of the NPT, along with the later cases of North Korea, Libya, and Iran. A significant adaptive outcome of the Iraq case was the strengthened safeguards system, of which the Model Additional Protocol, launched in 1997, is a major component. On the tenth anniversary of the Model Additional Protocol, this article reviews the evolution of nuclear safeguards that led up to it, assesses its achievements and failings, and speculates about the next likely punctuation in the evolution of nuclear safeguards.

Origins

The origins of the nuclear safeguards concept and perhaps the term itself may be found in the 1946 Acheson-Lilienthal report, which concluded that “a system of inspection imposed on an otherwise uncontrolled exploitation of atomic energy by national governments will not be an adequate safeguard” against the production of fissionable material for nuclear weapons.[1] After the Soviet Union rejected the 1946 Baruch Plan for the internationalization of all nuclear capabilities, the safeguards about which Acheson and Lilienthal had been so skeptical became the default concept. They were embodied in the statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), founded in 1957 as both facilitator of the spread of nuclear science and technology and its chief “safeguarder.”

The IAEA was mandated to “establish and administer safeguards designed to ensure that special fissionable and other materials, services, equipment, facilities and information…are not used in such a way as to further any military purpose.”[2] The agency could review the design of equipment and facilities, including reactors; require the maintenance of operating records for the use of nuclear material; and call for reports from states. Most extraordinarily, in terms of intrusiveness, the IAEA could conduct on-site inspections, giving it “access at all times to all places and data and to any person…as necessary to account for…materials” in order to determine compliance.[3]

In the early years, most IAEA safeguards resulted from the transfer of existing bilateral arrangements to the agency. Based on IAEA document INFCIRC/26, the safeguards applied only to materials and facilities transferred from one state to another, notably small reactors, and have been described as “technically amateurish.”[4] After the Soviet Union became convinced of the security benefits of containing nuclear proliferation, a more elaborate and intrusive model became possible, based on agency document INFCIRC/66/REV.2 of 1965. Some of these early agreements survive, notably those applied to select facilities in the three states still outside the global nonproliferation regime: India, Israel, and Pakistan.[5]

Enter the NPT: Comprehensive or Full-Scope Safeguards

The most dramatic punctuation of this early period was the negotiation and entry into force of the NPT. The treaty formalized a division of the world into nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, along with the concept of a verifiable division between peaceful and nonpeaceful nuclear programs. The NPT imposed a legal obligation on its non-nuclear-weapon states-parties to place all of their nuclear activities under IAEA safeguards, hence the terms “full-scope” and “comprehensive.” Each state-party is obligated to negotiate a bilateral safeguards agreement with the IAEA based on frameworks and models encapsulated in IAEA document INFCIRC/153.

INFCIRC/153 remains the foundation of modern IAEA safeguards, used not just for the NPT but for nuclear-weapon-free zones, the first of which, established by the 1967 Treaty of Tlatelolco, preceded the NPT by a year. It envisaged the same methods and practices as INFCIRC/66,[6] notably nuclear materials accountancy and inspections, but introduced new concepts to improve effectiveness: subsidiary arrangements to tailor safeguards to each state and protect confidentiality; the focusing of safeguards on strategic points where verification might be most revealing; the use of instrumentation and nonhuman inspection techniques (today, increasingly, continuous real-time remote monitoring using video cameras); surveillance and containment as important complements to material accountancy; and a requirement that states establish state systems of accountancy and control. INFCIRC/153 also placed some limitations on the agency, regulating the designation and right of rejection of agency inspectors by states and setting out dispute resolution arrangements.

The detonation of a nuclear device in May 1974 by non-NPT party India was an unexpected punctuation for this new safeguards regime only four years after entry into force of the NPT. Although India had not violated its IAEA safeguards agreement because it did not have one, the test spotlighted the “peaceful nuclear explosion” loophole in safeguards language relating to “weapons purposes” and led to the establishment in 1975 of the Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation. That group has been charged with recommending technical improvements to safeguards ever since.

Thereafter, the safeguards system entered a period of equilibrium. The number of states-parties to the NPT increased to near universality, and apart from some relatively minor infractions discovered in the early 1980s, the IAEA was able to declare annually that it had no evidence of the diversion, by any non-nuclear-weapon state-party, of peaceful nuclear material or facilities to nonpeaceful purposes.

The Iraq Debacle and Response

The sharpest of punctuations to this equilibrium came with the revelation, after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, that Iraq had been clandestinely conducting a nuclear weapons program in parallel with its IAEA-inspected peaceful program. The IAEA’s failure to detect such activities, located in some cases just over the berm from where inspectors visited, produced widespread criticism of safeguards, both justified and unfair. It also provided a political window of opportunity for significant strengthening of the system.

The fundamental problem was that the IAEA could only monitor and inspect materials and facilities declared by states-parties. Determined proliferators could develop substantial undeclared nuclear capabilities undetected, either co-located with declared facilities or apart from them. Although a so-called special inspection, the equivalent of a challenge inspection in other disarmament regimes, could be requested, these were politically and practically difficult to launch. After the IAEA board, post-Iraq, reiterated its right to seek special inspections, it found itself peremptorily refused on its first attempt, in North Korea in 1993.

A further difficulty was the reliance on nuclear accountancy as the principal tool for detecting diversion and, in turn, the reliance on safeguards as the key tool in detecting noncompliance with the NPT. The agency lacked the full range of modern tools for such a verification challenge, although even states with satellite imagery and sophisticated intelligence services had missed Iraq’s illicit activities. Nonetheless, the agency demonstrated the continuing utility of safeguards in 1993 by detecting North Korea’s noncompliance with its new safeguards agreement by calculating, using materials accountancy, that declarations of its plutonium production were improbably low.

Together, the Iraq and North Korea crises, along with South Africa’s 1989 revelation that it had secretly produced a small nuclear arsenal,[7] although as a nonparty to the NPT, proved sufficiently punctuating to trigger relatively rapid, adaptive evolution of safeguards in a new direction.

Strengthened Safeguards, Including the Additional Protocol

Jolted by such wanton noncompliance cases, the IAEA board in 1993 mandated that the secretariat propose legal, technical, and financial means of strengthening safeguards. The recommendations resulted in a two-pronged program. Part one comprised measures the agency concluded it already had the legal authority to undertake and that could begin immediately. These included requests for additional information from states on their former and future nuclear facilities; increased use of unattended monitoring devices transmitting data direct to IAEA headquarters in Vienna; expanded use of short-notice and unannounced inspections at declared facilities; and the introduction of environmental sampling. In addition, the agency revolutionized its use of open-source information, including satellite imagery, which is increasingly cheaply available commercially, as well as accepting intelligence information from member states.

Part two involved states providing the agency with the legal authority for further measures by individually concluding a supplement to their comprehensive nuclear safeguards agreements. In May 1997, the board agreed on a Model Additional Protocol,[8] which expanded the verification responsibilities of the agency and each state-party. It increased transparency by extending states’ declaration, reporting, and site access obligations to encompass the range of nuclear fuel cycle activities from mining to the storage of nuclear waste. The protocol also requires states to report on nuclear equipment production, imports and exports, fuel cycle research and development, and future plans for facilities. Parties are required to provide an expanded declaration of their nuclear activities within 180 days of entry into force of their additional protocol.

The IAEA would now aim at a holistic, as opposed to a materials- and facilities-based, view of states’ nuclear activities. It would for the first time seek “credible assurance not only about declared nuclear material in a state but also about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.”[9] Complementary access could be sought by inspectors to resolve ambiguities discerned at declared and undeclared sites.

The power of strengthened safeguards has been demonstrated by the revelation of previously undisclosed nuclear activities in Egypt, South Korea, and, more significantly, Iran. In the case of Iran, the extra information requirements and agency powers, including those under the additional protocol, have proved potent. (Iran has signed but not ratified an additional protocol, and has sent mixed signals about its willingness to comply.) Although Iranian opposition groups first revealed the deception, new safeguards measures have helped uncover the details of 20 years of dishonesty and provided a constant stream of leads for the IAEA to pursue through requests for further information and follow-up inspections. Environmental sampling has proved illuminating.

The new IAEA safeguards capabilities provide increased reassurance that such noncompliance in the future will be detected much earlier. Yet, limitations remain. A major challenge is that concluding an additional protocol is voluntary, making it likely that only states intent on complying will join without pressure, which has been applied in the cases of Libya and Iran. Although there have been calls for the IAEA board to make the protocol compulsory, there is little stomach for venturing so far at this stage. It will probably take another punctuation in the safeguards equilibrium for this to happen.

In the meantime, after a slow start the number of states with additional protocols is growing to the point where it is becoming the norm. As of September 2007, 84 states had such protocols in force. The real surprise is the number of NPT states-parties that have failed to comply with their legally binding obligation to have a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force. As of September 2007, they numbered 30, mostly African states. This partly explains why the adoption of the Model Additional Protocol has been so slow. Without a comprehensive agreement, there is nothing to which the protocol can be attached. Other countries, such as the United States, have a policy of not bringing the protocol into force until their domestic legislative and other mechanisms are in place. Indeed, states without such mechanisms in place risk missing their 180-day declaration deadline under the protocol, which some have. Political and legislative lethargy and a lack of awareness by states not represented in Vienna are added reasons for the slow adherence to the protocol, despite the IAEA’s valiant attempts through regional meetings and other outreach activities.

A further difficulty is that some of the additional powers that the IAEA acquires under the Model Additional Protocol are neutered in states that also have a Small Quantities Protocol (SQP). Introduced in 1971, such protocols hold in abeyance significant safeguards obligations, including declarations and inspections, when nuclear activities remain under a certain low threshold. Controversy over the SQPs arose when Saudi Arabia, a state with evident nuclear energy ambitions, sought one. In September 2005, the board directed the agency to begin renegotiating with SQP states to restore at least some of the IAEA’s powers based on a revised model. States with existing SQPs were invited to exchange letters with the IAEA to trigger implementation of the new model, while all future SQPs will be based on the new one. This would oblige states to submit a declaration on their nuclear holdings, however small, which in turn forces them to institute a national system of nuclear materials accounting and tracking. This should be especially useful in strengthening national measures to avoid theft and illicit transshipments of nuclear material.[10] The initiative is, however, again dependent on the goodwill of the states concerned and is proceeding slowly. Currently, 79 states have old SQPs in force; 13 have the new version in force with five others in process; and one has been rescinded.[11]

Finally, the Model Additional Protocol still leaves the IAEA a long way from the anytime, anywhere verification envisaged in its statute. Complementary access requires at least 24 hours’ notice. If inspectors are already at the site in question, they must give two hours’ advance notice. A demand for a special inspection remains an extraordinary, highly politicized option. There is still a possibility that undeclared facilities could go undetected. A state bent on noncompliance will take active measures to conceal its activities, including disinformation and delaying tactics of the type that Iran has deployed.

Nonetheless, the strengthened safeguards system increases the costs and risks for a potential proliferator. It has also to some extent liberated the IAEA from its past timidity, both mandated and self-imposed, and certainly emboldened current Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei in examining the entire range of signals of a proliferator’s intentions. It is notable, for instance, that the agency has concerned itself with evidence of the links between Iran’s military and its alleged peaceful nuclear program, something it previously would have felt was beyond its official verification remit.

The agency meanwhile has also moved to rationalize layers of safeguards imposed on selected states over the years, thereby increasing efficiency and, it is hoped, effectiveness through a program of integrated safeguards. To date, only a handful of countries, notably Australia, Canada and Japan, have been admitted to this select group. This is partly a reward for punctilious compliance with all aspects of safeguards, including the Model Additional Protocol, as candidate states must undergo rigorous examination and cross-examination before qualifying. An unspoken benefit for the IAEA is that verification resources can in theory be devoted to more problematic cases.

The existing system remains as underfinanced and under-resourced as ever. In addition to a decade of zero budgetary growth that ended in 2003, the agency has been obliged to assume increasingly onerous and numerous verification and safeguards obligations, notably in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, South Africa, and the non-nuclear successor states of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. It is also cooperating with the United States and Russia in repatriating highly enriched uranium from research facilities in vulnerable locations around the world. If the U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation agreement, which envisages India designating a whole raft of nuclear facilities as peaceful and therefore subject to safeguards, ever enters into force, the cost could be as much as $10 million annually. The strengthened safeguards system is itself more costly and labor intensive, while integrated safeguards have yet to produce significant, if any, savings.

In June 2007, ElBaradei decried the board’s refusal to approve a requested increase of 4.6 percent in the IAEA annual budget of around $275.5 million, revealing that the agency’s safeguards function was being “eroded over time.”[12] He noted that the organization was forced to use an unreliable 28-year-old instrument for environmental sampling and rely on external laboratories for analysis, “which puts into question the whole independence of the agency’s verification system.” Moreover, there has been no general implementation of wide-area environmental sampling due to the projected cost. The threat to safeguards is compounded by what the U.S. Government Accountability Office has described as “a looming human capital crisis caused by the large number of inspectors and safeguards management personnel expected to retire in the next 5 years.”[13]

The recent attempt by the United States to engage IAEA board members in further improving safeguards ended in failure when the Advisory Committee on Safeguards and Verification folded last June after two unproductive years. Although the secretariat proposed at least 18 improvements for consideration, the committee was unable to adopt a work plan. With its membership open to all IAEA members, Iran was able to pursue a wrecking strategy. Even the United States seemed unwilling to devote the necessary political and financial capital into making the committee succeed. Perpetual issues over the relative attention devoted to nuclear safeguards and assistance in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and nuclear disarmament also contributed to the paralysis.

The Next Punctuation: Future Challenges

Nuclear safeguards remain a work in progress. If the punctuated equilibrium theory is correct, it will require another crisis for significant new improvements to be made. This may occur if the much-heralded nuclear energy revival ever comes to fruition. Increased numbers of research and power reactors, additional nuclear trade and transport, and moves by more states to acquire the full nuclear fuel cycle will require increased IAEA safeguards capacity and spending. It may also awaken a sleeper issue that has long exercised the sharpest critics of safeguards: the fact that the current system cannot provide sufficient assurance of nondiversion of fissionable material from bulk-handling facilities, such as those involved in uranium enrichment, plutonium reprocessing, and fuel fabrication. These facilities handle such large volumes of nuclear material that significant amounts, in terms of the quantities required for an illicit nuclear device, will be unaccounted for, lodged in pipes or other equipment or subject to accounting and measurement errors. The system is also currently unable to verify rapid adaptation of enrichment and reprocessing plants from declared peaceful purposes to production of weapons-useable materials. Moreover, some critics claim that the IAEA’s 30-year-old criteria, suggested by the nuclear-weapon states, for how much nuclear material is needed to make a nuclear weapon (“significant quantity”) and how much time is required to convert such materials into a bomb (“conversion time”) need significant revision downward.[14]

If a nuclear energy revival permits increasing numbers of non-nuclear-weapon states to acquire such facilities, the safeguards system risks losing credibility. Proposals for fuel banks and regional or multilateral enrichment facilities and the phaseout of the use of plutonium for civilian purposes are widely deemed to be appropriate means for dealing with the proliferation implications of these developments, but all of them imply more powerful nuclear safeguards tools beyond even today’s strengthened system. In the meantime, it would be useful for the IAEA to tell its member states frankly where it is unable to achieve verifiability. This will not only help relieve the agency of the perennial burden of overblown expectations but should catalyze radical new improvements in areas where they are feasible.

Faced with such challenges, the future evolution of nuclear safeguards lies in the realization by the international community that this form of verification is a security bargain that deserves openness, hard-headed scrutiny, commitment, finances, and resources commensurate with its significance for international security.


Trevor Findlay is director of the Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance, Carleton University, Ottawa, and of the Nuclear Futures Project at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Waterloo, Ontario.


ENDNOTES

1. “Nuclear Safeguards: A Reader,” Congressional Research Service, Washington, DC, December 1983, pp. 46-51 (excerpts from “A Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy,” [Acheson-Lilienthal report]).

2. Statute of the IAEA, art. III.A.5.

3. Ibid., art. XII.A.6.

4. Carlos L. Büchler, “Safeguards: The Beginnings,” International Atomic Energy Agency: Personal Reflections (Vienna: IAEA, 1997), p. 48.

5. In NPT states-parties, they are “suspended” but would be reactivated automatically should NPT-based safeguards disappear.

6. Lawrence Scheinman, The International Atomic Energy Agency and World Nuclear Order (Washington D.C: Resources for the Future, 1987), pp. 153-154.

7. See Jack Boureston and Jennifer Lacey, “Shoring Up a Crucial Bridge: South Africa’s Pressing Nuclear Choices,” Arms Control Today, January/February 2007, pp. 18-21.

8. “Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards,” INFCIRC/540 (Corrected), Vienna, September 1997.

9. Jan Lodding, “Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Security: IAEA Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocols,” IAEA, 2002, p. 2 (quoting IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei).

10. See Jan Lodding and Bernado Ribeiro, “Strengthening Safeguards in States With Limited Nuclear Activities,” Trust & Verify, No. 123 (March 2006-March 2007), pp. 1-4.

11. Safeguards current status as of September 27, 2007. See www.iaea.org.

12. Julian Borger, “Nuclear Watchdog Might Not Cope in Atomic Crisis,” The Guardian, June 22, 2007, www.guardian.co.uk/korea/.

13. U.S. Government Accountability Office, “Nuclear Proliferation: IAEA Has Strengthened Its Safeguards and Nuclear Security Programs, but Weaknesses Need to Be Addressed,” GAO-06-93, Washington, DC, October 2005.

14. See Henry Sokolski, “Falling Behind: International Scrutiny of the Peaceful Atom,” Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, September 2007.

The theory of punctuated equilibrium posits that life on Earth has evolved not in constant, linear fashion but through long periods of stasis, interrupted by catastrophic events, such as meteor impacts, which suddenly push it in new, adaptive directions. Without stretching the metaphor too far, the evolution of nuclear safeguards can be viewed in this way. It has been characterized by long periods of continuity, interrupted by extraordinary events that have changed its nature and direction. (Continue)

Security Council Ends UNMOVIC

Paul Kerr

On June 29, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution officially terminating the mandate of UN inspectors tasked with verifying and monitoring Iraq’s disarmament. The inspectors had not been able to visit Iraq since a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country in 2003. The United States and United Kingdom assured the council that Iraq had been disarmed. Others, however, warned of the dangers posed by the country’s residual weapons capabilities.

Resolution 1762, which was submitted by Washington and London, “decides to terminate immediately the mandates” of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Iraq. The council adopted the resolution 14-0, with Russia abstaining.

The Security Council’s action ended a years-long debate regarding the inspectors’ fate. The United States and the United Kingdom had been pushing to end the inspectors’ mandate since shortly after the invasion, but other council members, particularly Russia, had opposed such a move. Moscow had argued that the inspectors should be given a more prominent role in assessing the fate of Iraq’s former weapons of mass destruction programs. (See ACT, June 2007.)

UN Security Council Resolution 687, which was adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, tasked the UN Special Commission and later UNMOVIC with inspecting and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles exceeding ranges permitted by the United Nations. The IAEA had a comparable role for Iraq’s nuclear weapons programs.

The UN withdrew all of its inspectors in December 1998, but in September 2002, Iraq allowed them to return. UNMOVIC and the IAEA withdrew their inspectors in March 2003 just before the U.S.-led invasion. In May of that year, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1483, which stated the council’s “intention” to “revisit the mandates” of the inspectors.

A U.S.-British letter contained in an annex to Resolution 1762 states that “all appropriate steps have been taken to secure, remove, disable, render harmless, eliminate, or destroy” Iraq’s illicit weapons and related programs. The United States and United Kingdom pledged in a May 2003 letter to the Security Council that they would take these steps.

The more recent letter also referred to a 2005 report from Charles Duelfer, the special adviser to the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which stated that Iraq had destroyed its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and had not restarted any of the related programs at the time of the invasion. The ISG was the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for prohibited Iraqi weapons.

Despite these assurances, both Russia and UNMOVIC expressed concern about possible dangers from Iraq’s past weapons programs. For example, Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, said that Russia abstained from voting for the resolution because UNMOVIC had not officially certified that Iraq was free of illicit weapons. Churkin also expressed concern about the fate of some Iraqi missiles that were not destroyed by the inspectors.

Similarly, Acting UNMOVIC Executive Chairman Demetrius Perricos warned about the uncertainty concerning Iraq’s past weapons programs in a June 29 briefing to the council. For example, he reiterated that more than 350 missile engines may remain in Iraq, which inspectors had not been able to destroy by the time of the invasion. Additionally, Perricos said, other weapons-related “capabilities…may still remain” in the country. These include “scientists and technicians” with weapons-related expertise, as well as “more than 7,900 dual-use items” that could be used in weapons programs.

Perricos also noted that, “[i]n the present security environment of Iraq, the possibility should not be discounted that nonstate actors may seek to acquire toxic agents or their chemical precursors in small quantities.” A May UNMOVIC report raised similar concerns. (See ACT, July/August 2007.)

Although Resolution 1762 terminates the inspectors’ mandate, it also “[r]eaffirms Iraq’s disarmament obligations under relevant resolutions.” Past Security Council resolutions imposed restrictions on Iraq, such as a prohibition on missiles with ranges exceeding 150 kilometers. This resolution does not specifically name those restrictions, but they are still in place, a knowledgeable British official told Arms Control Today Aug. 1..

Previous Security Council resolutions provided for international monitoring to ensure that Baghdad would not reconstitute its illicit weapons programs. However, no comparable mechanism is now in place.

Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the United Kingdom’s permanent representative to the UN, indicated that the Security Council should "move forward and focus on ensuring" that Iraq carries out its obligations. He did not elaborate, however.

Currently, no international inspections regimes would apply to Iraqi missiles or biological weapons programs. However, Resolution 1762 does urge Iraq “to adhere to all applicable disarmament and non-proliferation treaties and related international agreements” and “invites” Baghdad to “report to the Security Council within one year” on its progress in this regard. In particular, the resolution mentions the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and an additional protocol to Iraq’s IAEA safeguards agreement.

IAEA safeguards agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, allow the agency to monitor non-nuclear-weapon states-parties’ declared nuclear activities. An additional protocol augments the agency’s ability to discover undeclared nuclear activities.

Ambassador Hamid Al Bayati, Iraq’s permanent representative to the UN, said June 29 that his government would provide the requested report. He reiterated that Baghdad has drafted a law regarding Iraq’s accession to the CWC and said that Baghdad is preparing to conclude an additional protocol.

The resolution also urges Iraq to report on its progress in implementing export controls for goods that have both civilian and military applications. Bayati said that Baghdad “would be committed” to such measures.

Resolution 1762 also requests the UN secretary-general to transfer to Iraq within three months funds from Iraqi oil revenue that had been set aside to cover UNMOVIC’s operating costs.

Going Forward

Resolution 1762 also requests the UN secretary-general “to take all necessary measures to provide for the appropriate disposition of UNMOVIC’s archives and other property.” In addition to electronic and paper documents, the commission has a variety of other items, such as missile engines, artillery shells, and bombs, UNMOVIC spokesperson Ewen Buchanan told Arms Control Today July 24.

The UN still has to decide on the degree of organization and openness of the commission’s future archives, Buchanan added. The archiving process must also maintain control over proliferation-sensitive information, he said, adding that most of the documents are “sprinkled in some way” with such information. The resolution states that the UN should keep “sensitive proliferation information or information provided in confidence by [UN] Member States…under strict control.”

The resolution also requests that the secretary-general “inform the Security Council within three months on steps taken” in the archiving process. Currently, 14 commission employees are left to perform the archiving tasks. These employees have contracts until Oct. 10, but the agreements could be extended, Buchanan said.

UNMOVIC Completes Compendium

On June 27, UNMOVIC issued its full compendium of “lessons learned” from the inspections. Comprised of more than 1,000 pages, it discusses the history of the UN inspections in Iraq as well as Baghdad’s illicit weapons programs. The compendium touts the inspectors’ successes and discusses lessons drawn from their mistakes.

UNMOVIC released a summary of the compendium in June 2006, but Perricos explained that the commission could not publish the full version without first removing “sensitive information” that could potentially aid other countries’ weapons programs.

On June 29, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution officially terminating the mandate of UN inspectors tasked with verifying and monitoring Iraq’s disarmament. The inspectors had not been able to visit Iraq since a U.S.-led coalition invaded the country in 2003. The United States and United Kingdom assured the council that Iraq had been disarmed. Others, however, warned of the dangers posed by the country’s residual weapons capabilities. (Continue)

Small Arms Raising Concerns in Iraq

Jeff Abramson

A pair of recent reports have raised concerns about the use and transfer of small arms in Iraq. A July 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the Department of Defense could not fully account for at least 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi forces between June 2004 and September 2005. A previous report in 2006 estimated that the Pentagon could not account for 14,000 small arms but hinted that the numbers could be much higher. The new total heightened concerns about the potential use of missing U.S. weapons against U.S. forces by insurgents or sectarian militias. (See ACT, December 2006.)

Shortly after release of the GAO report, the Associated Press reported that Italian officials investigating mafia activity had stopped an illegal arms shipment in February of more than 100,000 automatic weapons purportedly destined for Iraq’s Interior Ministry. The Iraqi middlemen involved in the deal claimed that it was proceeding with Iraqi and U.S. approval, but U.S. officials said Iraqi officials had not informed them of any such purchases.

Since 2003, the United States has provided about $19.2 billion to develop Iraqi security forces. The Defense Department recently requested an additional $2 billion to support these efforts. From June 2004 through September 2005, Multinational Security Transition Command-Iraq reports showed that the U.S.-led coalition issued about 185,000 AK-47 rifles and 170,000 pistols to Iraqi security forces. Of these weapons, GAO analysis indicated that property book records could not fully account for 110,000 AK-47s and 80,000 pistols. An additional 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 helmets also could not be fully tracked.

Congress funds the train-and-equip program outside of traditional security assistance programs, reportedly to allow for greater flexibility in accounting and implementation. As of July 2007, the GAO found that no specific accountability procedures had been determined and that property books were incomplete and inefficiently managed on spreadsheets. Mark Kimmitt, deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, concurred with the report recommendations and wrote in an attached letter that “[s]teps are being taken to incorporate features fully into a proper accountability system.”

A pair of recent reports have raised concerns about the use and transfer of small arms in Iraq. A July 2007 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the Department of Defense could not fully account for at least 190,000 weapons issued to Iraqi forces between June 2004 and September 2005. A previous report in 2006 estimated that the Pentagon could not account for 14,000 small arms but hinted that the numbers could be much higher. The new total heightened concerns about the potential use of missing U.S. weapons against U.S. forces by insurgents or sectarian militias. (See ACT, December 2006.) (Continue)

Iran-Iraq Chemical Warfare Aftershocks Persist

Alex Bollfrass

Almost two decades after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the conflict’s chemical weapons legacy lingers in the streets of Ramadi and in courtrooms throughout the world. Iranian, Kurdish, and U.S. victims of Iraq’s chemical weapons are seeking judicial redress. At the same time, the Iraqi special tribunal has sentenced three key perpetrators to death.

Revealing that the left-over dangers from eight years of that war have not ended, UN inspectors charged with verifying and monitoring Iraq’s disarmament warned in their latest report of the continuing threat that munitions and expertise left behind by the war still pose even as insurgents mount new types of chemical attacks.

Death Sentence for “Chemical Ali”

Ali Hassan al-Majid, Saddam Hussein’s cousin and top aide, was pronounced guilty on June 24 of ordering the use of chemical weapons during the dictator’s anti-Kurdish operation, a decision that earned him the nickname “Chemical Ali.” He was sentenced to death by hanging.

The so-called Anfal campaign lasted from late February to early September 1988. The prosecution alleged that the campaign destroyed approximately 2,000 villages and killed 180,000 people. The trial’s defendants claimed that it was a counter-insurgency operation and the Kurds were supporting the Iranian enemy. According to the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal’s verdict, the Anfal campaign constituted genocide, a war crime, and a crime against humanity.

During the Anfal campaign, Ali Hassan served as secretary-general of the Ba’ath Party’s northern bureau. He later oversaw the Kuwaiti occupation and was minister of the interior prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion. Two other high-ranking officials were also given the death penalty and another two received life sentences for their role in the attacks.

Complaints Collect in Dutch Courts

Iraq’s chemical warfare program relied on foreign suppliers, one of whom recently had his 15-year prison sentence extended another two years. The businessman Frans van Anraat had been convicted in December 2005 of complicity in war crimes for shipping more than 1,100 tons of thiodiglycol from a U.S. company to Iraq. The chemical was crucial in the production of the mustard gas used by the Ba’athists in their attacks on Kurds in 1987 and 1988, which included the Anfal campaign.

A Dutch appeals court increased Van Anraat’s sentence on May 9, arguing that he had been “driven by naked greed,” but it found the evidence insufficient to convict him of complicity in genocide. The appeals court also ruled that 15 Kurdish plaintiffs would not receive the €680 in damages that the lower court had awarded them.

These victims, however, are being represented in a separate upcoming civil case. The state prosecutor also is considering an appeal of the case to the Netherlands’ high court in hopes of establishing van Anraat’s complicity in genocide.

The Iranian government will be filing its own legal claims in the matter. Iranian news sources reported that Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Mostafavi announced May 12 in Tehran that his government would be launching suits against Iraq’s Western chemical suppliers and that it had created a dossier on the subject.

Iranian diplomats contacted by Arms Control Today did not respond to requests for details. It appears that the first suit will be brought in the Netherlands, in connection with the van Anraat case.

During the war, Iran developed its own chemical weapons program and supplier network in response to Iraqi attacks. One Israeli supplier, Nahum Manbar, is on the verge of release from prison in that country. He was sentenced to 16 years in 1998 but is likely to be released soon, pending the state attorney’s request for Israeli intelligence to vet if Manbar’s release would pose a threat. Two of Iran’s suppliers have also served jail sentences in the United States.

U.S. Veterans’ Suit Wilting

The Iranian lawsuits are starting just as U.S. Persian Gulf War veterans’ quest for compensation is trickling to a halt. The U.S. military blew up Iraqi ammunition depots containing chemical weapons agents and may have inadvertently exposed its own soldiers to toxic fallout. The class action lawsuit targeting alleged Western chemical suppliers to Hussein’s government, originally filed in 1994, has failed to gain traction in U.S. and European courts.

The class action complaint comprises some 3,000 plaintiffs, but its list of defendants has dwindled from 46 businesses to two companies. The lead attorney in the case, Gary Pitts, told Arms Control Today June 15 that he has been unable to establish proper jurisdiction over the mostly European companies in the United States, despite their U.S. subsidiaries.

As an American, Pitts has been unable to file in the national courts of the major suppliers: Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Some of the biggest suppliers to Iraq were German, but Germany’s judiciary rules do not permit consolidated lawsuits. This means that each plaintiff would need to file separate suits against each company.

Pitts said the “heavy players” had escaped punishment. One of the two remaining defendants, Alcolac Inc., was previously convicted of violating U.S. export laws in 1989 for supplying van Anraat with the thiodiglycol that he sold to the Iraqis. Kellogg, the other company, built an ammonia facility in Iraq but was not listed in the detailed records of its chemical weapons program that Iraq gave to the United Nations.

Another setback for the case has been the disappearance of a key witness, Alaa al-Saeed. He headed the Iraqi chemical weapons program at al-Muthanna, the largest chemical weapons facility under the Ba’athist government, and had agreed to testify in the case.

On his way to a new Iraqi government post in the Science Ministry, al-Saeed was kidnapped in March and is still believed to be in captivity. A representative of the U.S. embassy in Iraq confirmed to Arms Control Today June 17 that its Office of Hostage Affairs had an open file on al-Saeed but declined to provide details.

UNMOVIC Issues Warning of Lingering Expertise, Materials

In addition to occupying judges with questions of guilt and compensation, the war’s consequences still pose threats to the lives of people in Iraq. The UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) recently warned about the danger of an escalation in chemical attacks in Iraq. In their May 29 report to the Security Council, the commissioners noted that at least 10 insurgent attacks have killed dozens and injured hundreds of individuals. It observes that the situation is aggravated by the presence of a past program’s materials and expertise.

These attacks involved the dispersion of widely available chlorine gas with conventional explosives. The report, addressing the period between the beginning of March and the end of May, alerts the Security Council that hundreds of individuals in Iraq have experience in producing and delivering chemical weapons. The supply of these scientists’ expertise and insurgents’ demands for deadly weaponry presents a dangerous combination.

Another risk factor mentioned in the report is the existence of procurement networks that can acquire chemical precursors for weapons. UNMOVIC says that despite Security Council resolutions mandating that any dual-use chemicals imported into Iraq must be reported to it, UNMOVIC has received no such information since the U.S. invasion of March 2003. Consequently, weapons-usable chemicals can be shipped into Iraq with impunity.

Dual-use-chemical production equipment exists in Iraq, providing the infrastructure for small-scale production of chemical weapons. UNMOVIC points out that those interested in using chemical weapons could improvise primitive delivery systems to reach their targets.

The report also noted the possible existence of pre-1991 chemical weapons. Mustard gas-filled artillery shells may be particularly dangerous because the agent is unlikely to have deteriorated in potency. The remaining nerve-agent warheads are less of a direct threat because of probable degradation, but they may still pose a health hazard, according to the Iraq inspection agency.

The agency was disbanded June 29 before it could take action on removing these threats. Legal consequences from the Iran-Iraq War, on the other hand, will be rippling through the courts for the indefinite future.

Almost two decades after the end of the Iran-Iraq War, the conflict’s chemical weapons legacy lingers in the streets of Ramadi and in courtrooms throughout the world. Iranian, Kurdish, and U.S. victims of Iraq’s chemical weapons are seeking judicial redress. At the same time, the Iraqi special tribunal has sentenced three key perpetrators to death. (Continue)

Security Council May Close Iraq Inspection Unit

Paul Kerr

The United States and other permanent members of the UN Security Council are drafting a resolution that would officially terminate the mission of UN inspectors tasked with verifying and monitoring Iraq’s disarmament, Ben Chang, a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, told Arms Control Today May 22.

Speaking to reporters May 15, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. permanent representative to the UN, did not mention a resolution but did say that “the time has come to move to bring this to a close appropriately. And I believe that there is an emerging consensus to do that.”

The United States is working with the United Kingdom and other council members on a resolution, Chang said, adding that the process “is taking a while because there is a lot of complexity” surrounding the issue.

For example, numerous Security Council resolutions governing the question of Iraq’s disarmament remain in effect. Ewen Buchanan, a spokesperson for the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), pointed out in a May 21 interview with Arms Control Today that these resolutions contain restrictions, such as a prohibition on Iraqi missiles with ranges exceeding 150 kilometers, that the council must address.

Both U.S. and UNMOVIC officials explained that the Security Council also needs to decide the fate of the commission’s archives, which contain proliferation-sensitive material that could aid other countries in developing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.

After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the UN Security Council tasked the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM), UNMOVIC’s predecessor, with verifying and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles exceeding UN-permitted ranges. Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were charged with verifying and supervising the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear weapons program. The UN withdrew the inspectors in December 1998, but they returned in November 2002 with Iraq’s consent. (See ACT, December 2002.)

The UN inspectors found no evidence that Iraq was pursuing illicit weapons programs but still had some unanswered questions about the country’s past weapons programs.

The inspectors left Iraq just before the U.S.-led March 2003 invasion. Since then, UNMOVIC, which includes staff in New York and teams of inspectors from UN member states, has remained on standby and has not been able to conduct in-country inspections.

At least one Security Council member still remains skeptical of the resolution. Russian Foreign Minister Aleksandr Yakovenko charged that a draft resolution “breaches established [Security Council] regulations,” according to a May 11 press account.

Yakovenko also stated that UNMOVIC and the IAEA should present a report to the council “on the state of affairs connected to disarmament programs in Iraq.” Acknowledging that neither organization is “in a position to do this on their own,” he suggested that the United States “officially present to the UN the findings of its own search teams.”

A U.S.-led postinvasion investigation found that Iraq did not have prohibited weapons programs. But the United States has never briefed the UN on the investigation’s classified findings, Buchanan said.

Yakovenko also argued that the problem of Iraqi illicit weapons “has acquired added acuity” because of the lack of security at Iraqi facilities that could be used to produce such weapons.

For its part, Iraq would like UNMOVIC’s mission to end. In an April 24 letter to the Security Council, Iraqi Foreign Minster Hoshyar Zebari reiterated Baghdad’s past requests that the council “terminate the mandate” of the UNMOVIC and IAEA inspectors. Zebari argued that their mission is no longer relevant because “there are no longer any legal or technical grounds for continuing their mandate” and because Iraq no longer has prohibited weapons or related programs.

Zebari’s letter also described several steps that Iraq has taken to provide assurance that it is not pursuing such weapons, including drafting a law that would permit Iraq to accede to the Chemical Weapons Convention. Iraq declared in 2004 that it would accede to the convention. (See ACT, July/August 2006.)

He also wrote that “preparations are underway” for Iraq to ratify an additional protocol to its IAEA safeguards agreement. Such agreements, which are required under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, allow the agency to monitor non-nuclear-weapon states-parties’ declared nuclear activities. An additional protocol augments the agency’s ability to discover undeclared nuclear activities.

The United States and other permanent members of the UN Security Council are drafting a resolution that would officially terminate the mission of UN inspectors tasked with verifying and monitoring Iraq’s disarmament, Ben Chang, a spokesperson for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, told Arms Control Today May 22.

Speaking to reporters May 15, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. permanent representative to the UN, did not mention a resolution but did say that “the time has come to move to bring this to a close appropriately. And I believe that there is an emerging consensus to do that.” (Continue)

Problems With Iraq, Weapons Persist

Paul Kerr

The United States has lost track of thousands of weapons provided to Iraqi troops, according to an Oct. 28 report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). Several days later, the office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Negroponte suspended public access to a website containing information from captured Iraqi documents apparently relevant to building unconventional weapons.

The report is the result of an audit of “the type, quantity, and quality” of weapons purchased for the Iraqi Security Forces by the U.S. Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF). The audit was conducted at the request of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) and came well more than three years after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

According to the report, approximately 370,000 weapons costing about $133 million have been purchased with IRRF funds since November 2003. Twelve types of small arms were purchased, including machine guns, grenade launchers, and assault rifles.

The Multi-National Security Force Transition Command-Iraq could not account for 751 assault rifles, 13,180 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistols, and 99 machine guns, the report says, posing concerns about the “physical security” of the weapons.

Moreover, the United States may not be able to keep track of the remaining weapons because the command failed to register their serial numbers. Approximately 10,000 weapons, or less than 3 percent of the total provided, were registered, according to the report.

Although the command has said it will take steps to remedy the situation, the report argues that those efforts are inadequate.

For example, the command’s response to the report says that it has developed a system “to maintain accountability” of the weapons. However, SIGIR criticized this procedure, arguing that it is inadequate because the weapons are not registered until after they arrive in Iraq and are distributed to the Iraqi forces. “Without first determining how many weapons were in fact purchased and received…there is no assurance full accountability is established for all weapons,” the report says.

Additionally, the command rejected the report’s recommendation that it register serial numbers with the Department of Defense’s Small Arms Serialization Program, stating that it is meeting “the intent” of the report’s recommendation by establishing its own registry. However, the report states that the command is required to register the weapons with the program.

Sensitive Iraqi WMD Information Leaked

Meanwhile, concerns arose in November that Negroponte’s office may have posted information relevant to developing unconventional weapons.

The director of public affairs for the DNI, Chad Kolton, said in a Nov. 2 statement that the office has “suspended access to a web site containing captured Saddam [Hussein-]era Iraqi documents pending a review to ensure its content is appropriate for public viewing.” The office will review the material “before the site becomes available again,” he added.

This action followed a New York Times report that the documents contained information that could potentially assist the efforts of other states or nonstate actors to develop nuclear weapons. An IAEA official told Arms Control Today Nov. 22 that agency inspectors “had expressed concern internally about the site,” but the agency had not yet warned the United States before the Times article was published.

This is not the first time that the office has removed documents from the site in response to proliferation concerns. Demetrius Perricos, executive chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), expressed concern to U.S. officials in April about a document that contained information about Iraq’s chemical weapons program.

Asked about the Times article, UNMOVIC spokesperson Ewen Buchanan said in a Nov. 21 interview that the file “contains various ‘recipes’ and ‘cookbooks’ [for making chemical weapons] which we thought should not be made public,” adding that it was removed about a week later.

The document was the same as one that Iraq had provided UNMOVIC in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions adopted after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The DNI’s office had begun releasing the documents March 16. At the time, Negroponte cautioned that the government “has made no determination regarding” the documents’ accuracy or authenticity. (See ACT, April 2006.)

The documents were posted at the urging of several legislators, including House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Hoekstra has said that there are unanswered questions about the fate of Iraq’s illicit weapons.

Several official studies have concluded that Iraq did not have illicit weapons. No official evidence has emerged that information contained in the documents contradicts those findings.

The United States has lost track of thousands of weapons provided to Iraqi troops, according to an Oct. 28 report from the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR). Several days later, the office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) John Negroponte suspended public access to a website containing information from captured Iraqi documents apparently relevant to building unconventional weapons. (Continue)

Senate Intel Panel Releases Two Iraq Reports

Paul Kerr

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released two reports Sept. 8 as part of the second phase of its inquiry into pre-war U.S. intelligence concerning Iraq’s suspected chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs.

One report compares pre-war U.S. intelligence assessments with information gathered following the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The other report evaluates the intelligence community’s use of information obtained from individuals associated with the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a group comprised of Iraqi exiles who opposed Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The first report reaches similar conclusions to those of a previous official U.S. government postinvasion investigation conducted by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), the task force charged with coordinating the U.S.-led search for Iraqi prohibited weapons. The ISG had already debunked Bush administration officials’ pre-war claims that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons and had an active nuclear weapons program. (See ACT, December 2005.)

The intelligence community continues to review documents seized in Iraq. But a 2006 CIA retrospective, newly revealed in the intelligence committee report, states that such efforts are unlikely to yield new evidence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs. Noting that there “comes a point where the absence of evidence does indeed become the evidence of absence,” the CIA report adds that investigators “should have found at least some incidental reporting or references” if Baghdad had conducted “concealment and deception operations…to the scale necessary.”

In July 2004, the intelligence panel completed the investigation’s first phase, comparing the intelligence community’s pre-war assessments with the supporting pre-invasion intelligence. (See ACT, September 2004.) The second phase of the investigation is supposed to include an examination of Bush administration officials’ acquisition and use of intelligence, but it has been mired in partisan controversy. It began in June 2003 but has yet to be completed, despite repeated pledges from committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.). (See ACT, April 2006.)

The Sept. 8 committee reports focus on the intelligence community. The panel did not release three other reports examining other executive branch offices. While the committee maintains it will issue the additional reports, no date has yet been set for this. One of the reports would compare U.S. officials’ public statements regarding Iraq’s WMD and terrorist-related activities with the available intelligence. The others will evaluate U.S. pre-invasion intelligence about the likely postwar conditions in Iraq and “intelligence activities” conducted by officials from the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.

The Sept. 8 committee reports concentrate mainly on an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), which judged that Baghdad possessed chemical and biological weapons and was reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. An NIE is supposed to be the intelligence community’s most authoritative assessment of a given subject. (See ACT, September 2004.)

Iraqi Weapons: Predictions vs. Results

Largely recapitulating information contained in previous reports, the report comparing intelligence before and after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq reiterates that, during the 1990s, Iraq had destroyed its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs.

The CIA retrospective described in the report concluded that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein chose to withhold information about Baghdad’s illicit weapons programs from UN inspectors who began work in the country after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. But in a reaction to “unexpectedly thorough inspections,” Iraq later destroyed large amounts of “undeclared weapons and related materials” without the presence of the inspectors.

Baghdad decided to cooperate with the inspectors in 1995 following the defection of the Iraqi leader’s son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. According to the report, Iraq gave relevant documentation to the inspectors “in a genuine attempt to come clean on programs, albeit while attempting to save face,” apparently by blaming Kamel for concealing the documents.

Iraq believed at the time that this cooperation “would gain favor with the UN.” However, Baghdad’s disclosure instead validated the international community’s suspicions that the country had misled the inspectors, suspicions that “resulted in more intrusive inspections,” the committee report says. The UN’s reaction led Hussein to believe that WMD allegations by the United States and other countries were being used “as a pretext for regime change” in Iraq, according to the CIA retrospective.

Baghdad subsequently stopped cooperating with the inspectors, who were withdrawn in December 1998.

Apparently questioning a widely articulated theory, the CIA retrospective also notes that there is no evidence indicating that Hussein made “a concerted effort to maintain the illusion of WMD for the benefit of local adversaries,” such as Iran. Iraq had only a general “sense of the need to project power and military might,” the retrospective adds.

INC’s Role

The report evaluating the intelligence community’s use of information gathered from Iraqi exiles concludes that it used “false information from INC-affiliated sources.”

The 2002 NIE obtained data from two such sources. For example, the NIE contained a description, based on one source, of a new facility suspected of being part of a reconstituted Iraqi nuclear weapons program. The ISG later investigated the site but found no evidence that it had been “involved in nuclear-related work,” the intelligence panel report says. Subsequent intelligence community investigations have called into question the source’s credibility. According to the report, the CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) believe that the source never actually visited the facility he described, despite his claims to the contrary. Some intelligence officials believe that the defector “may have been provided with information about the facility by someone else.”

False information from an INC-associated source was also used to corroborate the NIE’s contention that Iraq possessed mobile facilities for producing biological weapons agents, the report says.

Additionally, the DIA continued to issue reports from INC-associated sources after the NIE was published. For example, a November report stated that, according to a member of the Iraqi opposition, Iraq had been smuggling chemical and biological weapons to Syria. A January 2003 report cited a source who claimed that Iraq had conducted “unspecified nuclear activity” at two facilities during the spring of 2002.

The Senate report only discusses information that the INC provided to the intelligence community and does not address widespread concerns that U.S. policymakers may have used INC intelligence obtained through other channels. Indeed, an additional view authored by several Democratic senators cites a June 2002 memorandum from the INC to the Senate Appropriations Committee that identified officials from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of the Vice President as recipients of INC-provided intelligence.

The senators also point out that a September 2002 public White House document cited information from an INC-affiliated defector to support a claim that Iraq had chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs.

 

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released two reports Sept. 8 as part of the second phase of its inquiry into pre-war U.S. intelligence concerning Iraq’s suspected chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs.

One report compares pre-war U.S. intelligence assessments with information gathered following the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The other report evaluates the intelligence community’s use of information obtained from individuals associated with the Iraqi National Congress (INC), a group comprised of Iraqi exiles who opposed Saddam Hussein’s regime. (Continue)

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